|A frosty start - morning view from the galley|
With so much rain recently it’ll be quite a while before the red boards are lifted on the Thames and the K&A so consequently, we haven’t moved since the last blog update. Saying that, we have been out and about most days, still using the train to avoid putting stress on Karen’s back by going in a car.
Not only have we been out and about we have also had visitors. Polly & Lochlann came over for dinner after work one evening and, as much as Polly loves coming to the boat, she still can’t quite work out how we are happy living on one 😉 Sophie & Yanos also came over one day after we had all been for a walk around the Roman walls at Silchester which is only three miles or so away. Sophie is the opposite to Polly and would quite happily live on a boat.
Silchester has always fascinated us as it is only a few miles from Reading but, when walking around the walls in the open countryside, it feels like we are miles from civilisation. It is purportedly one of the best surviving examples of Roman walls left in the country and the complete circuit is still standing. The remains of the amphitheatre can also still be seen just outside the city boundary.
The children have been asking us how we feel living on someone else’s boat and being back in the UK. To be honest we have really mixed feelings as, on the one hand, we love being here as we are having lots of the family time but, on the other, we both really miss being at home on our boat and can’t wait to get back to France. Looking at things logically, by the time we come back from France next October, the grandchildren will still be too young to remember us, and Lauren will still have three months of maternity leave to go!
Ellis is now home, and Lauren & Lewis have started parenting at home after five weeks in hospital. They are taking things slowly and won’t be having visitors for a few days whilst they settle into a routine, but we can’t wait to go and see them.
As well as the rain we have also had a couple of days of very strong wind and we did feel a little nervous being moored under some rather large trees. After one particularly windy night I drew the bedroom curtains and we were confronted by a couple of trees that had blown down during the night opposite us. To be fair, neither were as big as the large trees we had been nervous about and also, they had fallen along the bank side rather than across the cut. If they had blown across the cut, they would have landed on us but at least not have done the damage the larger trees would have caused.
|As usual the picture doesn’t really capture the reality|
We have fallen into a pattern of a couple of different walks every day; still not walking more than a few miles at a time while Karen’s back strengthens. One of the walks is along the cut towards Reading past a couple of locks and then branching off along the River Kennet and around a couple of gravel pits before coming back onto the towpath again. During the last few days, the river has been so high that it has been impossible to walk between the river and the gravel pits as the water has flooded the fields, so we have had to find an alternative walk.
|The River Kennet has flooded the fields where we usually walk|
As with most navigable waterways, the K&A had milestones along its route but very few are left standing today. There is a nice example just down from where we are moored showing the distances to Reading and Newbury.
|Canal milestone in Aldermaston|
Of course, none of our neighbours have been able to move either and we feel particularly sorry for Martin who is moored behind us. He reserved and paid for winter moorings for January and February a few miles upstream at Woolhampton. We feel sorry for him as he has been unable to get to his moorings, and it seems like it’s going to be a while yet before he can get going. Mentioning his name reminds me that we called him Murphy for quite a while as that is the name of his boat. We do find we refer to people by their boat name and often find it difficult to adjust to using their given names once we meet them. Sorry Martin, but you’ll always be Murphy to us 😊
Talking about other boaters, we met a guy the other day who introduced himself as an actor. The way he brought his profession into the conversation so early struck us as rather odd, especially as the talk had been about the broken water point at Aldermaston wharf and how we were all faring without a functioning water tap. Ignoring the way he introduced himself, he had a fascinating story to tell as he had a plastic hand which he now uses to his advantage. He has become a stunt actor and is ideal for those gruesome scenes where it seems like a character is having his hand sawn or chopped off!
During one wet afternoon we spent a happy few hours getting into more detail of our planned cruising for this year. Without going into too much detail (to avoid reader boredom and also, plans may change) we are heading east from our current mooring at Châlons-en-Champagne over to Strasbourg on the German border. We will then retrace our steps a little way and then head down the Moselle through Luxembourg and then up the Saar through the edge of Germany back into France thus completing a loop covering Alsace and Lorraine. We will then head south down the Vosges valley and then back up through Burgundy to Champagne to our starting point at Châlons.
|Starting and finishing on the left, the purple line is our planned cruising route this year|
I mentioned train journeys earlier and was reminded of two days in particular when we went to London on two consecutive days. The first day was to the funeral of a dear friend of ours followed the next day by a visit to the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi gallery. Catherine joined us for the afternoon to visit the exhibition with us and also brought us up to date with her plans for this year. She has handed her notice in at work, booked a one-way flight to Barcelona and plans to get a job out there for the foreseeable future. She wants to make the best use of her Spanish & Portuguese interpreting masters degree she finished a couple of years ago.
In retrospect we were rather daft travelling up and down to London on both days as we should have stayed overnight in town; however, Karen’s back didn’t seem to suffer unduly from the train journeys bearing in mind that we stood an awful lot anyway. We were a bit naughty on the way back one day as, whilst waiting for the train to leave Paddington, we realised our off-peak ticket wasn’t valid on that particular train. We ummed and aahed about getting off and the decision was soon taken away from us. An announcement came that the train was being delayed because of a technical issue so we went in search of an alternative but ‘legal’ train to Reading, of which there were many, albeit slower. We soon learnt that the original ‘illegal’ train was cancelled so rather felt we had been visited by karma.
The Tutankhamun exhibition lived up to our expectations that had been built up by reading reports in the press and accounts from friends who had already been. In a rather apposite way, the exhibition was one of the last trips Peter had made before he sadly passed away on New Year’s Eve.
Considering the artefacts were around 3,300 years old we were totally moved by the intricate detail of each piece. I have included a couple of items here for our memory.
On one of the days we walked between a couple of tube stops and tried our hand at some night boxing. We hadn’t been VR boxing at night before and wondered how we would get on. We were happily rewarded with a few especially around the lovely garden squares of Kensington.
|An ‘anonymous’ Victorian pillar box on Bolton Gardens|
The box is known as anonymous box as it doesn’t have a monarch’s cypher on it. For some, as yet unknown reason, pillar boxes cast between 1879 and 1887 had the VR cypher omitted. Of course, there are many suppositions as to why this was the case and no documentation has been found but it does seem improbable that it was an oversight as many seem to claim.
The only other anonymous pillar boxes are most of those from the current monarch’s reign found in Scotland. Because of the strong resentment by some Scots to Elizabeth being referred to as Elizabeth II, the cypher is replaced by the Scottish crown on these boxes.
While on post boxes we were pleased to find a particularly large wall box outside the abbey in Reading town centre. Although it would have been even better if the box had been Victorian rather than an Edward VIIth.
|Karen posing by a large Edward VII wall box|
The last couple of days have been lovely and dry with a good sharp frost that has lasted throughout the day in areas away from the sun. Over the weekend we had bought some bags of coal and on the Monday morning I borrowed a trolley from Steve, one of our neighbours, to bring them down from the car. Buddy was clearly desperate to be on the move as he just sat on the rear deck rather than walking to the car and back with me.
|I’m ready to go!|
Finally, on Monday afternoon we took the train into Reading to have our first cuddles with Ellis 😊 😊
|Happy and proud Grampy and Nanny Karen|